KADENA AIR BASE, UNITED STATES
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- It's the season for giving, for helping those in need and for appreciating the kindness of others. One such opportunity that gives back to the Kadena Air Base community is the Angel Tree program.
Angel Tree, operated by the Operation Warm Heart Private Organization and sponsored by the Kadena First Sergeant Council, provides gifts to the children of enlisted members in the midst of financial hardship.
"The purpose behind the Angel Tree is to help off set the cost of buying holiday gifts," said Master Sgt. Felisha Haman, 18th Communications Squadron first sergeant and president of the OWHPO. "What we [Operation Warm Heart] try to do is support those who may be having financial difficulties and are unable to provide their children with the type of Christmas that they wanted to. We don't want them to feel like they were left out."
In the past, the Angel Tree has been placed at one of the base chapels right after Thanksgiving. This year, Kadena Shopping Center patrons will find the tree at the front entrance.
"Kadena Shopping Center management has been gracious enough to allow us some space inside the front entrance to erect the tree because we thought the exchange would be a better venue," the first sergeant said. "In the past, people would take the angels with good intentions of buying the gifts and bringing them back, however, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, some of them were lost."
With the tree's new location, Haman hopes to see a 95 percent turn in rate and that every angel will get a toy. So far, 200 toys have been donated to the cause.
Among those donating to the Angel Tree this year is 10 year old Zachary Patch, a Stars & Stripes paper boy who saves his pennies to buy gifts.
"Since I was little, my parents taught me that Christmas is not just about receiving, but about giving," said the son of Poppy and Master Sgt. Stephen Patch, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department. "I donate because I know that my gift will bring a smile to a child's face that may not be as fortunate as I am. I hope that my gift will brighten their holiday season."
This marks the 15th year that Patricia Brown has given to the Angel Tree program. Mrs. Brown, the wife of Col. David Brown, 18th Maintenance Group commander, said she remembers how hard it was just starting out with a family and this is one way she can help.
"There are so many families out there that need help and support from the community," said the Illinois native. "I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to share with others."
Patrons interested in participating in the program don't have to wrap the toys before turning them in. A shopping bag is acceptable, so long as the angel is with the bag or attached to the toy. After turn in, toys will be stored in the base chapel annex, also known as "Santa's Workshop," where they are sorted and delivered to the appropriate unit.
"The overarching goal is that every child participating in the Angel Tree program will have a gift for Christmas, regardless of their family's financial situation. What it boils down to is we want the children to feel like they've had a good Christmas," Haman said.
The program will run from now until Dec. 20. The Angel Tree is one of four charitable events Operation Warm Heart conducts annually; the others include Thanksgiving Baskets, Christmas Bundles and Spring Baskets. For more information on this or other charitable events, contact a unit first sergeant.
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This work, Touched by an angel: Team Kadena members donate gifts to charity, by MSgt Kenya Shiloh, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.